Immanuel Lutheran Church
A SERMON ON GOODNESS
Immanuel Lutheran Church
July 22, 2018
ONE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT PRODUCED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT WITHIN US
Pastor Marla's recent sermons have been covering the fruits of the spirit that can be created within us when the Holy Spirit controls our lives. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Today I will discuss the fruit of goodness. The game we played was intended to highlight how goodness can be experienced by each of our senses. I think God created a multitude of ways for us to feel goodness, so we would want to enrich our lives with it daily. While we can experience it in many ways; taste, touch, hearing, sight and smell, it seems to me, the goodness we should focus on is really a heart thing. It comes from inside. Part of that sixth spiritual sense. When we embrace the Holy Spirit, goodness extends far beyond our bodily experience from the five physical senses.
People are always striving for a full life. A book was written in 1876, printed in 1881 called Success and Happiness. Written by two gentlemen, T.L. Haines and L.W. Yaggy, who had visions about what life should be like. Their focus was around the Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness. I have not read the book itself but have read a summary of many essays from it. As I scan the essay topics I notice they comment on human vices and virtues. Several fruits of the spirit that we've talked about are included. They understood the importance of these fruits as true aids to what life should be like. They recognized what it takes to be truly successful and happy. These goals are achieved by cultivating the relationship each of us has with the people and the world around us and following the example Christ lived of universal and permanent good will to men.
There is a tale of an old philosopher who asked his scholars to consider what was the best thing to possess. One said there was nothing better than a contented disposition. Another said a good companion was the best thing in the world. A third said a good neighbor and the fourth preferred a man of wisdom. The final scholar simply said a good heart. The philosopher replied, those two words, good heart covered what the rest had said. He said that has a good heart will be contented, be a good companion and a good neighbor. And he will have the wisdom to know what is fit to be done by him.
Individually we are not capable of doing every good deed needed in our world. But none are too small to ignore. Someone once said, He who waits to do a great deal of good at once, will never do any. Life is made up of little things. One kernel of corn begins to fill the bin. One drop of water begins the swell of the ocean. And one zucchini plant begins a bounty of immense proportion. True greatness consists in being great in little things. Everybody can set a good example, whether it is to many people or just a few. Don't wait to do the big one!
Some of you may have seen the movie Pay it Forward. A teacher gives his students an assignment. Think of an idea that could change the world for the better and put it into action.
Young actor, Haley Joel Osmet, portrays the boy that observes the lack of goodness in the world around him. He decides that if each person did a good deed for three people and they in turn, each did a good deed for three people rather than paying the favor back, the world would be a much better place. What a wonderful idea! I think the saying practice random acts of kindness is an off shoot of paying it forward. In the movie, paying it forward gains momentum but the movie ends on a sad note.
Unfortunately, evil exists all around us. The Holy Spirit can guide us to live as God intended and as Jesus exemplified but only if we open ourselves to it. Selfishness, greed, vanity, and a host of other human vices and temptations mean it is not always easy or even clear to see the good path we should follow. Like the noxious weeds that take nutrients from the surrounding plants, so the selfish person draws energy from those in their midst.
Channel 1ed1 had a news story last week about a young man named Rodney Smith Jr. An immigrant from Bermuda who is currently a graduate student at Huntsville University in Alabama. Several years ago he felt lost in his life. He prayed and asked God for a path to follow. After some time passed, possibly 2 years, he saw an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn. Rodney was young, he enjoyed cutting grass and recognized this as a way he could help others. He felt this was the path God was laying before him. He started mowing lawns for elderly, disabled, single moms and veterans for free. For the past three years he has done free lawn care for this group of people and moved well beyond Alabama with a 50 states 50 lawns mantra. He now is a 501c3 called Raising Men Lawn Care Service. What started as one good deed became a movement that is meant to inspire young people to follow a positive path while learning and understanding their value in society. They can take his 50-yard Challenge and for each 10 lawns mowed they receive a different colored tee shirt. Briggs and Straton, the lawn care company, has become a partial sponsor for his work. It is another example of a good deed being recognized and helping to Pay it Forward.
I truly admire this man that had the fortitude to follow what he saw as God's lead for him. Not just follow it but turn it into a movement that Pays it Forward over and over again. And he is doing this while continuing to pursue his education.
I don't seem to have the strength at this stage of my life to delve into ventures such as that. I try to recognize an opportunity that presents itself and act upon it. I see myself as the person that tries to do good in little things. Hoping I can do that time and time again, setting a good example for my boys to follow. It has been said the first and paramount aim of religion is not to prepare for another world, but to make the best of this world or more correctly stated, to make this world better, wiser, and happier. That's not always how we view our religions. So how do we encourage that broader thinking?
It strikes me that Rodney Smith is from Bermuda where he said the culture is friendly and people do good, to give back in whatever way they can. A culture of goodness is contagious.
I think in this country people strive toward the American dream with its focus of being successful, popular, living on the edge, having the good job, the nice house and nice car. These days aggressiveness seems to be a quality utilized and promoted to achieve these things. Is aggression really the quality we want to be contagious? Who would you rather do business with? The aggressive salesperson or a merchant that listens to your needs and treats you well? Is your doctor pushing to run more patients through his day or do you have a good doctor that cares about you? And when you think about raising good kids, what picture comes to mind?
Living the good life should be one of our highest goals. But as the two gentlemen in 1876 recognized, material goals do not create a fulfilled life. Rather the life of goodness is a life with God at the center. He has placed the potential for goodness in each of us. When we embrace the Spirit of God we can touch the world. When we act as the hands and feet of God we are living a life of goodness and bettering life for others. Even the poorest can give of their time and of themselves and their skills/gifts from God.
If there is a time in your life when the only good you can do for another is to offer reverent and sincere prayers, God may be pleased that you have put them in his hands.
Do you know some people that radiate goodness? We are enriched by their presence, uplifted by their smile and generous deeds and healed by their laughter and touch. They are like rare gems, few and far between. I have had people like that in my life and am eternally grateful God allowed our paths to cross. Jesus enriched souls of those surrounding him by modeling a life of goodness. What an awesome experience it must have been to be in his presence or to have crossed paths with him.
There is pleasure in contemplating good, thinking about it, good intentions; there is greater pleasure in receiving good but the greatest pleasure of all is doing good. A story says that Napoleon once entered a cathedral and saw twelve silver statues. 'What are these?' he asked. The Twelve Apostles, was the reply. Well, he said, take them down, melt them and coin them into money and let them go about doing good as their master did. So we are called to follow Jesus example. But in the end, remember, we cannot be saved by our good works.
We cannot earn our way into the kingdom of God by good works. Paul writes to the Ephesians, For it is by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift from God. Not by works, so that no man can boast. We are God's handiwork, created in Jesus Christ to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. We are instructed to overcome evil with goodness.
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement in the late 1700s sums up nicely how we should incorporate goodness into our lives:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
And my personal caveat is, do good for the right reasons!
My favorite saying is, When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.